Martes gwatkinsii 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

Scientific Name: Martes gwatkinsii
Species Authority: Horsfield, 1851
Common Name(s):
English Nilgiri Marten
French Martre de l'Inde du Sud
Martes flavigula subspecies gwatkinsii Horsfield, 1851
Taxonomic Notes: This species has been sometimes been included in Martes flavigula (e.g., Corbet and Hill 1992), but has been separated as a valid species by other authors (e.g., Pocock 1941, Ellerman and Morrison-Scott 1951, Anderson 1970, Rozhnov 1995).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable D1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-03-03
Assessor(s): Mudappa, D., Jathana, D. & Raman, T.R.S.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W. & Schipper, J.
Contributor(s): Choudhury, A., Wozencraft, C & Yonzon, P.
Nilgiri Marten is listed as Vulnerable because its global population is plausibly below 1,000 mature individuals. The range, based on maximal extent of plausibly occupied habitat as shown in this account's map, is calculated to be about 24,500 km2. Nilgiri Marten population density is not known, but given the generally very low sighting rates of this diurnal, distinctive (although there remains evidence of confusion in some claimed sightings with Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica), and generally non-shy species, an average very low density is assumed. Assuming that half the calculated range is not occupied at all, and that the other half supports varying densities with large proportions of it holding only very low densities, an average of one animal per 8 km2 is within the bounds of credibility. This would give a population of about 1,500. Assuming that about two-thirds of the pre-breeding population are mature individuals, this suggests about 1,000 mature individuals - the threshold for Vulnerable categorisation under criterion D1. 

It might be close to warranting categorisation as Vulnerable also under criterion C1. The global population estimate falls comfortably within the threshold under C for Endangered (fewer than 2,500 mature individuals), but it is not plausible that it is showing a 20% decline in 14 years (two generations). Given the levels of persecution in parts of its range it is possible that it is in continuing decline, but it is unlikely that it is losing even 10% per 21 years, the level which would be needed for categorisation as Vulnerable. Should there be a change in land-use policy that would cause significant clearance of forest within its range, this conclusion would need to be reviewed.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (V)
1990 Indeterminate (I)
1988 Indeterminate (I)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Nilgiri Marten is endemic to the Western Ghats of India, south of 13°N (about Charmad - Kanapadi); 23 localities, most with very recent records, were traced by Sreehari and Nameer (2013). Most of these localities are in protected areas or reserved forests (see 'Conservation'). In recent times it has also been photo-documented in tea and other plantation areas adjoining forests, particularly in the Anamalai hills (e.g., Anoop 2013, D. Muddapa pers. comm. 2014).

It has been recorded across a wide range of elevations from 300 to 2,600 m asl (within 100 m of the summit of the highest peak within its range; Mudappa 1999, Balakrishnan 2005, Krishna and Karnad 2010, D. Muddapa pers. comm. 2014). Although there has been no formal assessment that accounts for variable search effort across the altitudinal gradient, it appears that the species occurs mostly in medium to high elevations of about 800-2,600 m asl (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014).
Countries occurrence:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Continuing decline in number of locations: No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Lower elevation limit (metres): 300
Upper elevation limit (metres): 2600
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Even despite the recent increase in records and even within well-protected areas, Nilgiri Marten sighting rates are startlingly lower than are those of the closely related Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014), suggesting that it might naturally occur at low densities. Nilgiri Marten was considered rare by Pocock (1941), but during and since the 1990s it has been seen much more frequently (e.g., 12 sightings in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve between May 1996 and December 1999; Mudappa 2002). There have been many 21st century sightings across its range (Krishna and Karnad 2010, Sreehari and Nameer 2013), including many as yet unpublished (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014, D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014, from various first-hand observers). While sightings in forest areas remain overall somewhat rare, local forest-edge communities usually know this distinctive species well and state that they regularly sight Nilgiri Martens when they raid bee-boxes and when they are treed by domestic dogs.

The population trend is unknown, but given the lack, in recent decades, of strong broad-scale threats such as heavy hunting or habitat loss, it is likely to be relatively stable at present. Hunting was largely an attempt to reduce the loss of bees' boxes (and consequent honey production); a few decades ago, there were even bounties paid for destruction of the species, particularly in Kodagu district (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014, D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014). This is no longer the case and persecution levels may have dropped, as certainly have levels of general recreational hunting. In Kodagu, retaliatory killing remains at a high level across the range, and seems unlikely to drop; some bee-keepers report a marked decline in Marten sightings in the 20 years to 2014, although it is not clear that this reflects a significant decline in population in this part of its range (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014). Thus, while it is plausible that the population in Kodagu is still in hunting-led decline, even this is not certain (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014, D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014), and over the rest of the range it is evidently rebuilding its numbers following the drop in hunting levels. The balance between the two opposing trends is not clear, but is unlikely to be strongly downwards, and may even be upwards.
Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 1000 Continuing decline of mature individuals: No
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Nilgiri Marten has been recorded mainly in evergreen forests and montane forest-grassland mosaics, with a few sight-records from moist deciduous forest very close to evergreen forest (Mudappa 1999, Yoganand and Kumar 1999, J. Joshua pers. comm. 2006, Sridhar et al. 2008, D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014), as well as in some altered habitats such as tea, acacia, coffee and cardamom plantations, generally within three kilometres of forest (Schreiber et al. 1989, Yoganand and Kumar 1999, Jathanna 2010, Krishna and Karnad 2010, Anoop 2013). 

This species will prey opportunistically on almost any small bird or mammal (Pocock 1941), including Indian Chevrotain Moschiola indica (Christopher and Jayson 1996, Kurup and Joseph 2001, Mudappa 2002), Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica (Hutton 1949a, V. Ramachandran, pers. comm. 2014), and on Bengal Monitor lizard Varanus bengalensis (Mudappa 1999); it feeds also on nectar (Hutton 1944) and probes fallen logs (Kurup and Joseph 2001), probably for invertebrates or reptiles. While sightings in forest areas are rare, local forest-edge communities (local planters along the eastern border of Talacauvery and Padinalknad Reserved Forest to the south, the southern border of Pattighat RF and the southern/eastern border of Pushpagiri) usually know this distinctive species well and regularly sight Nilgiri Martens when they raid bee-boxes placed in coffee and cardamom plantations close to forest areas (reportedly to feed on the bee larvae, rather than honey), especially during November-January.
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: No
Generation Length (years): 7
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is not used.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although Nilgiri Marten is not often observed, there is a good understanding of general levels and trends in habitat and hunting across its range. On this basis, the only predictable threats are habitat conversion (for large development projects like roads and dams), persecution in retribution for its destruction of bees-box contents (particularly in Kodagu) and, potentially, increase in tourism. After sustained large-scale deforestation within Nilgiri Marten range around a century ago, rates have slowed considerably in recent decades. Large development projects have been destroying some habitat, and fragmenting what remains, at low rates for the last three generations (21 years); these rates are not expected to rise significantly in the next 21 years. With increasingly effective legal protection, hunting currently is not a major issue for the survival of the species in most of its range. This hunting was largely an attempt to reduce the loss of bees-box contents (and consequent honey production); a few decades ago, there were even bounties paid for destruction of the species. This is no longer the case and rates have dropped, even in Kodagu in the north of the species' range, where (mostly through shooting with guns) persecution is most intense (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014, D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Nilgiri Marten is listed in Schedule II part II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and has been placed on Appendix III of CITES by India.

This species occurs in many protected areas and Reserved Forests (RFs), including (south to north): Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (TR), Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS), Neyyar WLS, Gavi range of Ranni Forest Division (FD), Periyar TR, Srivilliputtur WLS, High Wavy Mountains, Pambadumshola National Park (NP), Palni hills, Eravikulam NP, Anamalai TR - Grass Hills NP, Valparai plateau, Chinnar WLS, Nelliampathy RF, Attapadi RF, Muthikkulam RF, Nilambur South RF, Silent Valley NP, Mukurthi NP - Upper Bhavani, Naduvattam RF-Nilgiris, Brahmagiri WLS, Kerti RF, Padinalknad RF, Talakaveri WLS, Pattighat RF, Pushpagiri WLS, Bisle RF and Charmadi-Kanapadi RF (Hutton 1949a,b; Karanth 1985; Schreiber et al. 1989; Madhusudan 1995; Yoganand and Kumar 1995; Christopher and Jayson 1996; Gokula and Ramachandran 1996; Kurup and Joseph 2001; Mudappa 2001, 2002; Balakrishnan 2005; Kumara and Singh 2007; Mudappa et al. 2007; Krishna and Karnad 2010; Anoop 2013; D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014; H. N. Kumara pers. comm. 2014; N. Jain pers. comm. 2014; M. Balasubramaniam pers. comm. 2014; R. Vijayan pers. comm. 2014; K. J. Varkey pers. comm. 2014; V. Ramachandran pers. comm. 2014; R. Nayak pers. comm. 2014; S. Chirukandoth pers. comm. 2014; G. Mehra pers. comm. 2014; N. A. Naseer pers. comm. 2014; D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014). There are also records from Sholayar (Vijayan 1979), Parambikulam TR (Sreehari and Nameer 2013) and Vazhachal RF (D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014). These protected areas and reserved forests adequately cover the distributional range of the species and conserve it effectively.

Schreiber et al. (1989) recommended field surveys to locate remaining populations and determine if existing reserves give adequate protection. A systematic survey following this recommendation found that although poaching is infrequent in protected areas, measures to regulate hunting outside these areas are ineffective, especially in lowland forests (Balakrishnan 2005). With the recent number of incidental records clarifying current range, the more important need now is for ecological study of the species, particularly to clarify the factors behind the generally low sighting rate. This would greatly help in planning conservation action for the species, if indeed any is needed.

Citation: Mudappa, D., Jathana, D. & Raman, T.R.S. 2015. Martes gwatkinsii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T12847A45199025. . Downloaded on 25 November 2015.
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